By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
I'm not going to lie to you: The place is a few doors down from Hollywood Spice Adult Books and the Discount Trailer Warehouse, tucked away behind a blank storefront on a stretch of State Road 441 where you can shop till you drop for auto parts. If you're looking for atmosphere, turn around and head east toward those spectacular ocean views. But if you've been craving shark and bake with a side of callaloo and warm roti (a pita-like bread), washed down with a homemade soursop, you can either book a flight to Trinidad or stop in for the daily special at Coalpot.
You won't find chicken foot soup on many other menus. Except that Coalpot doesn't really have a menu. After your eyes adjust to the dim light filtering in through the open door, after you've walked past the pool table, the jumbo gumball machine, the ancient booths, and the Hollywood stills laminated to the tables, look for the board behind the bar with the hand-scrawled specials. By this time, you should be grooving to the Calypso tunes, so belly up and order a beer. If it's Thursday, Coalpot will be dishing up oxtail stew. And saltfish fry, a spicy, bone-warming mash of salt cod, tomato, thyme, and scotch bonnet pepper. For $6.50, it comes with bhaji (stewed spinach); a golden dhal made of split peas, garlic and cumin; and rice. Stewed chicken with pigeon peas is served daily. On Mondays, it's lamb pelau. Tuesdays, chicken chow mein.
In Trinidad, you don't just cook; you "cook up," defined as "the act of throwing some things in a pot" for the purpose of enhancing a "lime" (Trini-speak for hangout). You use the veg and meat you've got, add a dash of Spanish influence, a handful of French Creole, African roots. Plus a pinch of Indian spice and a Chinese accent, thanks to indentured servants who came to Trinidad post-slavery. Check out Coalpot on a Saturday with a bunch of buddies. Annie's in the kitchen cooking cow heel soup (root vegetables, cow shank), chicken foot soup, saltfish bujol, and shark and bake, Trinidad's national dish, which is made from marinated shark rubbed with chilis and spices and deep fried, then wrapped in a pillow of homemade bread (the bake).
As they say on the island, it'll free you up.